Paul McKenna’s expert guide to coping as a couple during coronavirus lockdown

By | April 15, 2020

It is an incredibly tough time, whatever your circumstances, and the lockdown can cause untold stress for couples.

In the final part of our series, TV self-help expert Paul McKenna offers invaluable tips on how to cope – and make sure your relationship not only survives but thrives…


In this time of crisis, where people find themselves confined with each other, it’s an environment that can produce conflict. Many couples are already reporting that they are arguing about things they wouldn’t ordinarily argue about.

This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the close confinement acts as an emotional amplifier.

Paul McKenna has some important advice

Secondly, if people are already stressed, this can find expression in arguments about petty things or innocent things that are being interpreted negatively – everything will seem wrong.

However, there is now a lot of science which tells us why people agree and disagree, and how they can create more harmony, even under difficult circumstances.

There is a psychologist in Seattle who can predict with 90% accuracy whether or not a couple will stay together after just 20 minutes of conversation.

His prediction is not guesswork but based on scientific studies.

Dr John Gottman has been studying relationships for 40 years. And in his early career, he listened to the conversations of thousands of couples and he took extensive notes.

He would score positive and negative comments to understand the patterns that lay beneath the everyday chatter.

Making relationships work

There are four straightforward actions that are excellent predictors of a happy, long-lasting relationship.

The more people do these, the greater their chances of success.

We may have never spent longer with our partners


There are times when it is tempting to tune out when your partner is talking.

After you have known them for a while, you probably do know roughly what they are going to say – people often do say the same things and raise the same concerns over and over again.

But listening carefully always pays dividends. It allows you to notice the small variations that tell you a lot about someone’s mood and, even more importantly, listening carefully is a sign of respect.

People like to feel that they are being properly heard and it makes them more confident about sharing more private and intimate thoughts.

Happy couples are good at listening. They give time and attention to their partner and make an effort to understand them.

For example, when one partner stops work and wants to talk about their colleagues, the other one listens.

Maybe they don’t know the people involved but the one talking wants to talk and be heard, so that they can get it off their chest.

Talking also helps us think through issues. As we hear ourselves speak, we can understand our ideas better and we all appreciate the chance to do that.

Arguing during lockdown is one of the pitfalls


Many of the actions and things we say in daily chat in a relationship are bids for attention.

If you hold out your hand to your partner as you are walking that is a “bid” to hold hands. It feels bad if your partner ignores it. It feels good if they take your hand and hold it. If you say, “Hello” as you enter a room that is a bid for a conversation.

If all you get back is a flat “Hello” it feels bad. If you get a warm, “You OK?” it feels good. These little bids happen over and over again every day. When partners respond to them, they feel warm towards each other and the relationship is nourished.


Couples who get on well express their admiration for each other regularly. They have a habit of noticing beauty and kindness and complimenting each other.

You may think your wife, husband or partner looks beautiful. Perhaps you even told them so a while back.

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Coronavirus outbreak

Well, if you still think it, your partner will definitely appreciate being told more often.


Happy couples pay attention to, and comment on, the good things in life. They see and share with each other good news and ordinary pleasures.

They appreciate life every day. When they see or hear something nice, they share it with their partner and the pleasure is doubled.

These four actions are simple and easy. They are easy to forget when people get stressed or depressed. But the more we remember them, the better life is on a simple, everyday level. Paying attention and compliments are excellent habits for you to cultivate.

Mirror – Health